If, like clockwork, you show up to the gym and work out three times a week, you’re probably getting stronger, which is great — you can do more pushups and pullups than when you started. This kind of commitment pays off, and if you’re not already applying this approach to your diet, now is the time to start.
For many of us, committing to a sustainable, healthy nutrition plan is really the hardest part of a holistically healthy lifestyle. However, making long-term changes to your diet is one of the best things you can do.
Here are five ways to commit to healthy eating like you’ve committed to going to the gym:
Eating is something we do every day, and have done every day, our entire lives. Often we don’t realize we’re eating to comfort ourselves, to reduce our stress or to mask another emotion we don’t want to feel.
Thus, if you suspect you have emotional unpacking to do when it comes to diet, try this mindful eating tip: For one week, every time you sit down for a meal, take note of what you’re thinking and feeling. Write down everything you see, think, smell and feel as you’re eating or right after you finish eating. You might start to see patterns developing.
Generally, though, short-term diets don’t work. And neither do rigid meal plans. Usually as soon as the short-term diet is over, you return to your old ways.
That being said, this doesn’t mean you should never embark on a diet challenge, as they can be useful as a springboard for something longer lasting. Consider your goals and expectations during the challenge, as well as after it ends. As the challenge is ending, come up with a plan for how you’re going to use what you learned during the challenge in your post-challenge life.
Setting action-based goals over results-based goals is a useful tactic because we can control our actions more than we can control how our body is going to react to a specific way of eating.
For example: I’m going to eliminate sugar from my morning coffee versus I want to lose 20 pounds in 30 days.
Another reason we’re drawn to short-term diets is because we often think it’s all about willpower. And it seems a little easier to muster willpower for 30 days than for an entire year.
However, if something is a habit, it doesn’t require willpower. Kind of like your gym routine or showering every morning. It’s just something you do without thinking about it. The same is true of food choices. Once it becomes a habit to eat vegetables with every meal, or to shop on the outside aisles of the grocery store, it no longer requires willpower to force yourself to eat veggies or avoid the cookie aisle.
The most effective way to build habits is by taking them on one at a time. It could be as simple as:
- I commit to drinking a glass of water when I wake up so I’m less famished for breakfast.
- I commit to sitting on the other side of the room at work so I’m not right next to the coffee and cookies.
- I commit to meal prepping lunches every Sunday so I bring healthier meals to work.
- I commit to eating vegetables with every dinner.
Choose one small habit you’re comfortable with and go from there. Once this first action becomes a habit, add another habit and tackle it, and before you know it, in 12 months you have completely transformed your life.
TAKE UP COOKING
Invest time in learning how to cook. Invite a friend over — one who is a really good cook — to prepare healthy meals together. Another great option: Host a healthy potluck dinner party with a group of friends and learn from others who might have more culinary experience than you.
The more you get into cooking, the more you’ll realize it’s not as daunting as you might think, and the more you’ll appreciate that healthy food tastes great when it’s prepared well.
USE FAILURE AS FEEDBACK
Many of us have tried diets and failed. Or maybe we have succeeded for a short period of time, but then fell off and gained even more weight back. So, we’re scared to hop on board again because we’re scared to fail. “Failure is just data points like a scientist figuring out what works and what doesn’t, and it helps teach you where you need more help or support,” says Jennifer Broxterman, RD. “Instead of being discouraged … look at failure with curiosity, self-compassion, kindness and radical honesty. And then move forward.”